Obituary: Mark Sheppard, 57, a longtime Seattle-area drama teacher, died March 26 from cancer.

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Vashon Island resident Mark Sheppard was a seasoned professional actor and director, with a long list of local credits. But he was best known as a dedicated, inspired educator and mentor to the many students he taught at Seattle’s Lakeside School and Northwest School for more than two decades, a reputation he kept right until his sudden death last week. He was 57 years old.

Mr. Sheppard, who had been fighting cancer since 2002, taught class at Lakeside School on March 25. The next day, he unexpectedly died at his home.

“He was not the ‘Barefoot in the Park,’ ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ kind of drama teacher,” said his domestic partner of 28 years, writer-editor and former Seattle Times contributor Fred Albert. “He was a passionate Shakespeare scholar, and loved the classics. He even got to London this February to see plays, and managed to get a ticket to a hit production of ‘Othello’ that was completely sold out.”

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During a 25-year teaching career in local private schools, Mr. Sheppard directed many student shows, including such classics as “Tartuffe” and “The Winter’s Tale,” and such modern plays as “The Laramie Project.”

“He saw what theater did for his students, how they blossomed and learned to express themselves, the teamwork,” recalled Albert. “He taught them that it was never about being a star, it was about enriching your life.”

A Tacoma native with a master’s degree in drama from the University of Washington, Sheppard also worked onstage and behind the scenes at numerous professional and community theaters.

In recent years he directed frequently at Tacoma Little Theatre, including productions of “The Baker’s Wife” and the play “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Earlier, he performed at such venues as the Bathhouse Theatre and Empty Space Theatre, and he served as chair of the Washington Alliance for Arts Education and a board member of Vashon Allied Arts.

Mr. Sheppard’s immediate survivors include Albert; his parents, Tacoma residents Sally and George Sheppard; his sisters, Christina Artman and Karen Sheppard; his brother Michael Sheppard; and niece Kristi Martin and nephew Marty Martin.

A memorial service is set for 2 p.m. April 13 at the Lakeside School, 14050 First Ave. N.E., Seattle. More details are available at the school Web site (

Remembrances may be sent to Vashon Allied Arts: or 206-463-5131.

Misha Berson:

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